Slayers Fan Fiction ❯ Wrath of the Volcano Goddess! ❯ Chapter 1
"Don't you love the smell of the salt air, Mister Zelgadis?" Amelia asked. Personally, I thought it smelled like dead fish and rotten seaweed, but I knew telling Amelia that probably would get a speech about not being so dour. So, I just nodded and continued watching the small crew of the ship she had chartered do their work on the ropes. They seemed to be competent enough, considering how much Saillune had paid them. I still wasn't sure why Amelia had insisted on a private ship, rather than letting Prince Phil delegate a Saillune Royal Navy vessel to accompany her. Surely they had some ships set aside for royalty taking a holiday.
But, this was supposed to be low-key, I suppose. Amelia was wearing her normal traveling clothing, and hadn't really been doing much princess-ing since we left the capital on our way to Safe Haven Island.
I didn't know much about Safe Haven Island, besides that it was off the coast of the sub-continent, and was named for the fact it was the last safe port before you got into the midst of the Demon Sea and you were lucky if you only drowned. Amelia, on the other hand, had found out about this island from her father, who had mentioned that it was her mother's birthplace. Prince Phil had never been there, and Amelia's mother had never gone back after she met Phil, but as soon as Amelia had heard about it, she wanted to visit. I don't know if she just wanted to see where her mother grew up, or was actively looking for aunts and uncles and cousins. Or maybe she was hoping to find True Love, like her parents. You can never tell with Amelia sometimes.
As for me, body-guarding princesses pays well, at least when Saillune holds the purse strings, and I was between jobs and a bit out of sorts. But I'd rather not go into that. And, for that matter, I hadn't been there either, and I wouldn't mind seeing something new and interesting. Since the crew was about as likely to attempt an assassination as I was to join a synchronized swimming team, I had been using the chance to update my own notes on this part of the coast. Not on the maps I'd borrowed from Saillune, since the Royal Librarian had a stare that could intimidate a dragon, but in my own personal journal.
The island was sufficiently far from shore that it couldn't be sailed to just by pointing the bow at it and going, and the captain had assured me that the currents were treacherous enough that experts such as her and her crew would be needed. I know more than a bit about sailing, and the currents didn't seem that unusual, but I'll concede that most of my knowledge is near the coasts, and we were far from shore.
The woman in the crow's nest had apparently spotted Safe Haven. I fished out my own spyglass from my bag. "Can I see too?" Amelia asked once I pocketed the lens caps.
I nodded. "Let me get a sighting first." I scanned the horizon roughly fore of the ship. I spotted a tiny spit of land, wreathed in clouds. It took me a bit to realize it was a mountain, jutting out of the sea. I couldn't yet see the shoreline.
I passed the spyglass off to Amelia, pointing her towards the right direction. "Is that it?" she asked.
"We're just seeing the mountaintop. There should be more coming above the horizon when we get closer."
Amelia nodded, looking back aft where we came from. "I can't see the continent at all. It must have been terrifying for people to come out here for the first time."
I nodded, taking out my sextant and the hanging lodestone needle. I had put a spell on it to make it a bit more accurate, to save the energy of having to cast a direction spell every time I wanted to get a bearing. I didn't have a clock with me to get the longitude, but I could at least use the bearing of the island and the latitude to estimate where we were.
I didn't have to do this, of course. I'm sure the captain was making the exact same measurements, probably using the ship's clock that she had set when we left port to get better accuracy than I could with my tools. But I like knowing where we are, in case something happened. Which has happened to me, more than once, so it's not like I'm being paranoid. It only takes me a couple of minutes, anyway.
By the time I had scratched the notes down in my journal with a stick of graphite, Amelia was ready to give me back my spyglass. "Thank you for coming with me, Mister Zelgadis."
"You're welcome," I replied, not pointing out that this was the second time I had accompanied her because Prince Phil was paying me to. And as I said, it's not like the trip itself didn't interest me.
"I wish Miss Lina and Mister Gourry were here too," she continued. "Not that I don't like traveling with you, Mister Zelgadis, but the four of us always have such a good time."
"Except when mazoku and magic beasts and bandits and talking octopi are trying to kill Lina," I added. "Having her and Gourry elsewhere might mean you and I have a quiet trip."
Amelia's eyes had a glint of mischief as she grinned at me. "You don't like the excitement, Mister Zelgadis?"
"Not when people are trying to kill me, no. And bandits aren't dumb enough to try anything on me normally." Well, when I'm awake.
"Oh. Well, maybe we can have an exciting trip without people trying to kill us," Amelia said. Aft of her her, the ship's captain, Euria something, was walking towards us. "Oh, Miss Captain!" Amelia waved at her. "When do you think we'll be at Safe Haven?"
"Probably sometime tomorrow, depending on the winds, Miss Saillune," she answered. The captain was most certainly aware that Amelia was a member of the Saillune Royal Family. The 'miss' had to be a polite fiction that assumed that, since Amelia didn't identify herself as nobility, she didn't want the treatment guaranteed a foreign noble. Which was fair enough; Amelia doesn't normally pull rank unless she needs it, something I approve of. For that matter, I've never really travelled with Phil, but Lina tells me he's the same way.
"Really?" Amelia asked. "Wow, it takes a long time to get there."
The captain nodded. "Winds tend to blow towards the continent at this latitude, so we have to tack pretty hard. If we were sailing north from the Desert of Destruction, the winds blow off the desert, and we'd get a faster trip, even with fighting the current to get north."
Amelia nodded. "Oh." She looked towards me, whether to make sure Captain Euria was telling the truth, or to see if I knew that. (I did.) "I'm glad we hired you, then, Miss Captain." I was pleased she didn't offer our shamanic magic. A good wind spell would give a boost to the ship's speed, but it would be tricky over a long stretch.
"It's just experience. I've been sailing these seas since I was younger than you." Captain Euria looked out towards the island. "Did you see Fire Mountain?"
"The mountain on Safe Haven?" I asked. From what I'd read about mountains on islands, a lot of them are volcanoes.
"That's right. The locals believe the spirit of the volcano occasionally walks the island," the captain explained, "and must be appeased by gifts."
"Sounds like a good gig for con artists," I commented.
"Mister Zelgadis!" Amelia replied. "You shouldn't go around mocking other people's beliefs."
"I was just saying," I muttered, "some people see 'harmless local legend' as 'get rich quick scheme'."
"Like you?" Amelia gave me a critical look and I decided I needed to head off a Justice Speech in the making.
"Of course not." I had far more direct ways to make money and no one would believe I was the spirit of anything good. Horrible monster needing appeasement, maybe, but that was more likely to turn into 'a kick in the pants by a would-be hero'. Besides, someone might want a nature spirit to hang around and grant good harvests or whatever it is that nature spirits do; I'd rather be on the road, though. "Anyway, we might be able to check out the shrines while we're there, but I doubt the Spirit of Fire Mountain would decide to take human form during our visit. It's just a local legend -- it won't affect us."
"You're probably right, Mister Zelgadis."
Of course, I was wrong. A lot of this story is full of me wondering if I could have handled it better, even though it was mostly a pain in the ass and just plain embarrassing, rather than anything harmful. Maybe it's just my kind of luck.
* * *
The first thing we smelled on the wind the next morning was smoke. I took out the spyglass, and noted that the port we were approaching had a grey haze around it. "Is something burning?" Amelia asked.
"Could be," I said.
"Can the ship go any faster? We need to help those people!"
I wondered if I should point out that the burning smell could just be a bonfire or something, but we were still far enough out that even a bonfire probably wouldn't carry on the wind. "Ask the captain," I told her.
Amelia ran off, propelling herself towards Captain Euria, who was standing at the wheel. One conversation that I couldn't hear later, and she was motioning me over to stand near the aft and throw as much magically-created wind as I could to counter the prevailing breeze.
Well, maybe not as much as I could. Ramming the ship into the harbor like some kind of wooden missile would be counter-productive, so as the docks approached, I put a hand on Amelia's shoulder, in the middle of a Bomb di Wind spell. "We need to give the ship some time to slow down and dock."
"There's no time for that!" Amelia said. "The town is burning!"
Yeah, it looked like that was the case, which goes to show that I really shouldn't try to point out other causes to things when I'm often wrong. The fires were dying down, though, leaving skeletons of buildings clustered around the docks. "It looks like the locals have the fires well in hand," I said. "Letting the ship run aground would damage the town worse." Which she and I both know first hand, from our trip to the Outer World.
Amelia considered this. "Fine. Rey wing!" She took off from the place she was standing, flying towards the town.
I looked over to the nearest crewman. "We'll be back for our stuff later. Don't sell it or toss it overboard." I then took off after her.
I suppose it was a nice port town, once, with stone and tile buildings. Now, of course, it was smoking and had brush fires everywhere. There were people running around, but I didn't see the expected sorcerers with water shamanism, or even the classic bucket-brigade, from the docks. It was hard to see with the layers of smoke between us and the ground, but long association with Lina Inverse meant that both Amelia and I were more observant than average when it came through seeing through destruction for important clues.
"Mister Zelgadis! Look at that!"
There was a crowd of people in what looked like it had once been some kind of market square. Here it looked like there had been some attempt to fight the fires before they left only soot-stained stone walls. But what had drawn Amelia's and my attention was a crowd -- or two crowds of people, facing off. The first looked like the standard village mob. Granted there was a maritime theme, in that there were more oars and boathooks than pitchforks and sickles, and the clothing was slightly different, but the format is really pretty similar no matter where you go.
Yes, I'm sure you can imagine how I know that.
The second group was smaller, but more organized. For one, they were all in orange and red robes, which filled me with all kinds of confidence. They also had similar taste in arcane jewelry, with red and yellow amulets. The leader -- or at least the guy in front waving his hands about like he was important -- also had a cloak that had to be made of at least ten flocks of the local birds. I guessed these people were probably the ones that started the fire. Considering that one of them tried to throw a Flare Arrow at us as soon as they spotted us, it was a safe guess.
Amelia alighted on the head of a statue of some kind of horrible deep-sea creature that an artist had inconsiderately left in the center of the square. She's going to give a speech, I thought as I landed. Which was an even safer guess than about the sorcerers.
"Halt, vandals!" Amelia said, pointing at the group in red. "Those who destroy what others' work hard to create are the lowest of the low. As the sun above, ocean to my right, and the citizens you wronged to my back, all of those as my witnesses, I will see Justice done and halt your rampage."
She actually said a bit more, but I was busy with matters of my own. I had landed behind the statue, which was just as horrible from the back end. I pulled up my hood and mask, since I find not knowing what you're facing tends to spook people, and drew my sword. I took a step into the field of view as Amelia was finishing up and no doubt about to jump down and punch the leader out.
Feathered Cloak spotted me first. "You got a fancy speech too, mainlander?"
"I prefer to let my sword and spells do the talking." I shifted into a defensive sword stance, only to shift suddenly and cast a Freeze Arrow to block the Flare Arrow Feathered Cloak had cast. I saw that he had turned his attention away from Amelia, which was dumb of him, as she chose that moment to deliver a leap-kick to his head, with a Triumphant Yell of Justice or something.
But the half dozen other acolytes or apprentices or whatever they were were still there. Well, that was easy enough to handle. "Dill Brand!" I didn't put much power in the spell since we were in a town -- enough to bust up the cobbles below the sorcerers, and send them all flying and knock Feathered Cloak prone just as he was starting to get up.
The downside was that Amelia had an unexpected spell-boosted assist to her dodge away after her kick. "Mister Zelgadis!" She had managed not to land on her face, but she was caught off-balance, and dropped to a crouch.
"Sorry," I said. "I thought you were clear."
Feathered Cloak was trying to stand up again, despite what was turning into a black eye and several other bruises from the fall. His robes were torn, and the damaged cloak was starting to make it look like we had been fighting giant mazoku chickens again instead of two-bit fire sorcerers. "You..." he said, shaking with fury.
"How dare you disobey the volcano goddess's chosen priests! Her mortal incarnation shall strike you down with fire from the heavens!" The screaming must have been too much for him then, since he chose that moment to pass out in a faint.
"Volcano goddess? Mortal incarnation?" With their leader out cold and the rest of the volcano priests slinking away with tails between their legs, Amelia was no longer taunting them with meeting just retribution. "Was that like the Spirit of Fire Mountain that Captain Euria was telling us about?"
I shrugged. "Sounds like nothing but trouble to me. Let's just get our stuff and head out. It's not our problem."
You know, I don't know why I said that. Even then, I should have figured out that 'not our problem' has about as much effect on Amelia as human property rights do on a black dragon. Maybe if I had been all 'yay, you defeated the bad guy, now let's continue your visit', she would have listened.
Somehow I doubt it.